Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Here's where I smash your Etsy dream

We received a recent comment that sums up one of the main issues with Etsy:

Wow, I just opened my Etsy shop a couple of days ago and am very new to Etsy - I never would have heard of it if Joy Behar hadn't talked about it on The View. I thought Etsy was a great thing and appeared to be on the artisan's side. Now I found this site and I'm concerned now. So much I didn't know about Etsy - it seems as if the Etsy admin team really doesn't care much about us. Does anyone know if Etsy has responded to the concerns of the sellers and to blogs like this? What do they have to say for themselves?

I'm sad now because I was hoping to make a living at this....

1. Etsy's original marketing plan was grassroots advertising, then it moved on to celebrity endorsements - Rosie O'Donnell, Martha Stewart, and the women on The View. The problem...that always seems to bring in sellers, not so much buyers. Because the people who watch those shows/people are stay-at-home or work-at-home people.

2. "You can make a living doing what you love!" More untrue words have never been spoken when it refers to setting up shop on Etsy. First, there is a hell of a lot more that goes into a successful business than just opening a shopfront on the site. Second, look at the downfall of the successful on Etsy - more orders than they can handle, no time for a life or a vacation, and they don't make all that much money overall (Martha Stewart unprofessionally repeated what Rokali should never have mentioned publicly in the first place that a top seller made 6 figures a few years ago when Etsy was small enough for sellers to be successful - but that was before expenses, fees, and taxes - take home $ for 100,000 in sales is likely only about 50k) . Sure, the overhead is cheaper than a brick and mortar shop, but Etsy is still expensive compared to the new competitors that have hit the interwebs (can you say free listing?).

3. The most successful shops on Etsy aren't only on Etsy - they tend to have their own websites, their own customer base, and they do more than online sales. They have local groups and shows they participate in - and they advertise - either via a niche product or with a lot of legwork and writing.

To answer your questions Lizzy (the commenter), the admin have responded and it has been a resounding "fuck you, we'll do what we want". In the end, it's their site, and they're mostly right. They can do whatever the hell they want, but that's that problem. Because if your shop looks at them the wrong way, you're fucked. CEO Rob sat down to talk to us earlier this year and he expressed concern and understanding, but it doesn't appear to have spread. The site currently has god-knows-how-many employees (we've tracked about a hundred that are likely still there) but no customer service relay. Of course they don't care - they're a big company now with tons and tons of money (all from glazy-eyed sellers with no business sense who are willing to spend $500 a month for a single sale of a $15 trinket), despite all of the reassurances that they do care, they really really don't. Not even about their own rules!

Etsy is a great place to shop, not so much to set up shop unless you're simply looking to have your items online. The site isn't the solution to being your own business, in fact they'll likely thwart your attempts at some point. Part of it is their fault for selling the unrealistic dream, and the other part of it is the fault of all who buy into it without any sense of what making a living from it really means.


renewjustrenew said...

Etsy admin do an excellent job of "selling the dream" Seller fees give them a nice paycheck and health insurance.

They have a full time tweeter who repeatedly strokes the same folks and people hang on her every word in case one day she chooses them.
Meanwhile they renew and renew.

There will never be a lack of starry eyed sellers and that's why etsy will always make money. It doesn't matter if you ever sell or not.

sark said...

I see the same shit on the front page all the time — the same fucking people, which is totally unethical.

I also see those people congratulate each other on twitter... and I've also met some of those people on twitter... and I've actually read some of their tweets where they literally piss on people who were sold this bill of goods who don't understand why they aren't successful too.

The only people who are successful who already didn't have a customer base or their own website are the people that etsy admin favor and dote on. It is literally that simple.

Unless you were already successful, then you're not going to be successful unless they pick you.

And what's with all this gray shit on the front page today, much less the frequency of the treasury mafia making FP? It's fucking disgraceful and really, MaryMary is just a fucking asshole.

Actually, MaryMary is an unethical incompetent asshole.

I'd say that on the forums, but etsy is so much of a non-business that their employees, like incompetent asshole MaryMary, cannot handle criticism. MaryMary does a shitty job of curating the front page. I have no urge to buy that shit. I'm a fucking consumer, believe me.

Basically, I agree with everything you posted.

The Funny One said...

I just got emails from 3 local workshops announced "Get Started on Etsy" classes costing from $40-$75, so some enterprising souls are making money the Etsy-way, trying to massage the last drop of life out of a stale, old, overworked, uncreative formula for selling handmade online. Seems no one noticed it don't work no more.

The bigger problem for most of us who actually make real handmade and want to sell it online is that the 20 or so other sites use the same worn out, tired, old, uninteresting Etsy-formula, they just have a lot less paid people to flog a few favorites on their boring front pages (and collect their paychecks every week).

They all made and make the same mistakes Etsy does. Using sellers to do 99.9% of the advertising and mktg for free with less than nothing in return.

So instead of flexible selling platforms that change to meet the changing market conditions of ecommerce, they've created a huge population of frustrated sellers who tell all their friends not to visit any of these sites, and certainly not to buy on any of these sites.

They created their own anti-consumers! What a concept! All that money and all those paid people and they STILL can't figure out how to sell handmade!

Indigo said...

Thank you yet again for putting it alll into perspective! I love you ladies!

Etsy is a POS, and I feel bad for the starry eyed sellers, and a few of the ones "That aren't going anywhere". But we all have choices to make. Bless them all, when the Etsy ship goes down.

MothOrchid said...

I'd love to see some Etsy staff member write a tell-all insider book on exactly what goes on there every day, how decisions are made and exactly who makes them. It would be a fascinating study in dysfunctional psychology.

JACK SHIT said...

"Actually, MaryMary is an unethical incompetent asshole."

I am sure of the incompetent part. The entire 'content team' is ignorant of.....

What these people don't know makes the site look as DUMB as they are about handmade or vintage. They DO NOT KNOW JACK SHIT.

Stifler's Mom said...

Lately there have been a lot of forum posts; What is syndication? How do I get syndicated? Why don't my items come up in google shopping?

If sellers want their items in google shopping, they should open an Artfire shop.

thebottomline said...

A business is really only as good as it's leadership. And, a leader who only talks and has no follow through, well I guess you can see where I am going with this.

The truth is that etsy does make a lot of money. They make it via resellers (except for the 3 days when HeyMichelle worked on that) or wannabe crafters who come and go.

Perhaps that's all the investors and board members care about, the bottom line.

Hellloooo! said...

So, what ever happened to the "road map" promised on May 1st and asked about in the forums 100 times?

Is it because there is no plan? No service, no plan. But, you can make a living here. Right.

dill pikle said...

Agreed, the people Etsy hired to do their merchandise were hired because the Etsy team in 2006-2007 wanted to get laid, not because they had any sort of expertise in anything at all.

The odd thing is they still employee these same people who know nothing about art, craft, merchandising, life in general so on to do the same jobs that they have proven themselves to be unable to do properly.

Diana said...

I just started a totally free website to sell vintage and handmade items on called efreeme.com, so there are definitely alternatives out there to sell without having to pay fees.

Artfire seems pretty cool too, but I've actually never bought or sold on there.

Kali the Destroyer said...

Dayam! Well said, Sister. Etsy will experience what Yahoo did with Google. Remember surfing the internet pre-Google? Yeah, most people don't... it existed. Etsy was a game changer, but they can get booted quickly by not responding.

ThePlaypen said...

Etsy is a poorly run online marketplace with arbitrary rules enforecement. No response is standard operating procedure from the Etsy support staff. They seem to have no business or marketing acumen whatsoever. Appears to be staffed entirely with wannabe hipsters and stoners. They can shut down a seller's store without warning or viable reason. No appeal process or inquiry. Thus, they can and do confiscate all the sellers product images and descriptions, costing the seller thousands of hours of labor and money. Don't forget that the seller has already paid for a contracted listing of a specified duration. Management behavior is borderline criminal. Class-action lawsuit being brought by sellers soon. Etsy allows unstable buyers to run amok who make multiple purchases with no intention of paying. Seller concerns are routinely ignored and as a result, Etsy has developed a reputation as a "seller-unfriendly" site.

Lizzy said...

Hi, this is Lizzy, the person who posted (or whined, rather) the original comment about making a living on Etsy.

I am SO happy to have found this site and I did find other free sites that seem good (Dwanda, 1000Markets, etc., so I will try them as well. (BTW, if there is bad news about them as well, I'd love to hear it!)

I actually do have my own .com website for my crafts but have been too lazy to set it up, and now I will get started on that right away. I'll stay with Etsy in the off-chance I do sell something, but I have to say one thing I HATE is giving my money to a company that has zero respect for me as a seller or as a buyer. I am surprised to hear all this about the Etsy admin - you know, that Danielle chick looks so nice and sweet smiling at me in her weekly Etsy Success email - I guess because I wanted to believe that a company that supports unique hand-made crafts instead of mass consumption is a little bit nicer than the others and less profit-driven. Guess I was totally wrong. Honestly, I don't understand how anyone can take pride in their business when they treat people so horribly, like Etsy admin obviously does. Where is their morality, for God's sake? They talk all the time in their "tips" about how customer service is the key to selling on Etsy, yet, they don't take their OWN advice? Nice.

Thank you so much for starting this site, I will be checking it every day!



The Funny One said...

I gotta add here that most handmade sites, most of all Etsy, missed the one key ingredient to make all this work -- which was building a seller-loyalty program that kept sellers engaged and willing to still mkt the site for free after months of declining traffic and sales.

The sellers would have gone to bat for them and saved their asses.

Whatever the site-CEO's (that's all of them) say in print or not, they're current ride on the "social ecommerce" wave doesn't have a chance in hell if they dissed the sellers who might make that a semi-viable solution.

No community, no seller support, no more free labor. Declining sale, less profit, more bad buzz in cyberspace about the site.....well, it's already happening. Etsy just pushes it faster in a negative direction. Faster than the speed of light.

tired etsian said...

So is this the reason we don't have phone support yet. I'm sorry but why the hell do you need special little decorated booths for customer service. All they need is a headset, a computer set up with one of dozens of call center software and a chair to sit in.


Clover said...

IMO...Etsy is Ebay reincarnate, only it morphed into an "art" marketplace, but they are both big, hairy monster marketing machines that have done nothing but cheapen the goods being sold there. Basically, it is not worth the time or effort to sell anything on Ebay, and it is now not worth the time or effort to sell on Etsy. I just reduced the items I was selling down to 1/3 of what I was offering...I'm not going to let Etsy devalue my art because of market saturation and greed with an "ART" label on it. The squeeze of my cost, profit, and constant relisting fees (like Ebay) have been to much to bear on this Artist...I'm out.

yuck-oo said...

If you don't believe in Etsy's catering to a select few sellers, go to Germany-

tired etsian said...

So let me get this straight. A booth at a German event, featuring an American seller. Could they not have found one German or at least European seller to feature on their booth? Come on Etsy, target your market.

Anne Onymous said...

I don't think there's any substitute for your own website, diligently updated and carefully marketed and optimized. Yeah, it's a pain, and it costs money, and it's not easy to set up. But you're your own boss, and you get to have all your own stuff on your front page. Now that I've closed one Etsy shop, the other one is going to play a subordinate/adjunct role to my "real" website.

@sark - yeah, I've noticed that. They're also the same people who invite each other to local shows, squee at each other on Twitter, and aren't all that fond of people who "think different." I fell for it for a while, but my new attitude is serving me well: Always cordial, always willing to help out, but a bit distant.

ummmmmmno said...

That newbies first mistake was to assume she/he could make a living selling on Etsy...

The second mistake is ever thinking they care...no one cares about you or your selling or how much you are selling. No matter where you go and what you do you are on your own...unless you eat magical cupcakes and sit around in your dirty underwear holding fake mustaches up to your mouth...